(BPT) – An estimated one in 59 children has been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite this prevalence, if you think your child might have autism, it can feel very isolating. Venturing into the unknown is stressful, but there are some important steps you can take now to make a big impact for your child in the future.
“Autism is a developmental disorder and each child falls on to a unique place on the spectrum, meaning they have different levels of difficulty in social interaction and communication,” says Dr. Steven Merahn, Chief Medical Officer, Centria Healthcare. “The good news is by taking action now, you can help your son or daughter tremendously. Parents are important advocates for testing, diagnoses and treatment. The important thing is to stay positive and be proactive.”
Research from the Centria Autism Barometer found there is at least a 15-month delay between the time parents first suspected a developmental issue and the onset of treatment. Such delays result in lost treatment opportunity, which can negatively impact a child’s overall development. What’s more, when 32% of parents sought treatment, they were told their child would outgrow it, further delaying access to instrumental treatment.
“It’s important to speak with your doctor and ask about treatment options as soon as possible,” stresses Kayla Schmidt, parent to two children with autism. “Each month, week and day is an opportunity to help your child, so it’s important to be their voice and support system.”
Dr. Merahn recommends the following tips for parents dealing with the stresses of autism diagnosis and treatment:
Diagnose when you suspect: Early intervention makes a big difference in an autistic child’s long-term outcomes. On average it took 8.3 medical visits before their child was officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centria Autism Barometer.
ABA all the way: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is the treatment of choice and most accessible evidence-based form of treatment currently available for children with autism and their families. ABA therapy can be adapted to meet the needs of each unique person and breaks down everyday tasks into easy-to-follow steps, using positive reinforcement and repetition.
Seek a center that can help you navigate the system: Comprehensive support services and solutions are necessary for creating an individualized treatment plan for your child and can expedite the treatment process. For example, Centria Autism offers free intake services to help you learn more about your child and potential therapies. Learn more at www.centriaautism.com.
Invest time for long-term gains: Having a child with autism requires extra work from parents. The therapies themselves can be like having a part-time job. Commit the recommended 25-40 hours per week of therapy to see adaptive skills, social functioning, learning and behavior transform.
Get feedback: Setting achievable goals and working diligently toward them is key. Work with your care team to learn how to assess your child’s progress. When you hit milestones it is a proud moment for both parent and child.
Don’t lose hope: This may not be what you envisioned for parenthood, but that’s OK. Do what’s best for you and your child’s needs, and the rest will take care of itself. Create a support network and make friends with other parents of kids with autism. It is wonderful to connect with people going through a similar journey as yours.